An Ekurhuleni food stall owner has been left without a means to make money, following his business been shut down by the metro police department.
Gary Mathebula told Vutivi News he believed it was because his surrounding competitors were jealous after he expanded his business due to its popularity.
Mathebula said he registered Gary’s Cuisine and started operating in January last year. It sold African dishes.
“Business was good, and I was even able to work during Covid-19 because I would deliver food to customers,” Mathebula said.
“I was doing well up until I started upgrading my facilities, adding a tent and a carpet to make my business look attractive. That is where the problem started.”
Mathebula said he started applying for a hawker’s permit so that he could start selling immediately after opening his business in January.
“I was informed to fill in an application which I did. I was told to go and operate while they process my application,” he said.
“I was also told that if I operated on a spot for three months and nobody bothered me, then the spot would be secured.”
Mathebula consistently made inquiries about his application and was told to come back later.
“At first I was told that because it’s lockdown I could not get a permit,” he said.
“Then when the lockdown regulations were eased, they asked me to resubmit my application. While I was waiting for the application to be processed, I continued operating and my business flourished.”
Mathebula said that in February this year, an officer allegedly responsible for his application passed by and saw his developments.
“He told me there and then that my business was attracting (too) much attention and traffic and that I should take it down because there is no permit for me to operate there,” he said.
“I begged him to let me continue operating because I have a family to feed. All the while there were other businesspeople who have been operating in the same area.
“I asked him if it was because I was registered or if it was due to jealousy?” he said.
Mathebula said the Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Police Department started bothering him, ordering him to remove his tent. They shut down his business last week.
“This is frustrating because I am behind on my rent and I have to feed my family. I used to make upwards of R500 a day, and whatever I made came in very handy to provide for my family,” he said.
EMPD spokesperson Chief Superintendent Kobeli Mokheseng told Vutivi News that hawkers were only removed when they did not comply with municipal by-laws.
He said it was possible that an officer from the customer care centre allowed Mathebula to trade while his application was processed.
“When a businessperson wants to apply for a hawker’s permit, the person will be assigned an inspector to inspect the spot where the businessperson wants to trade. If it is not a suitable spot to trade, the inspector will advise him as to where the businessperson must relocate,” Mokheseng said.
“When the EMPD responds to a call, it will be from a complainant that could be businesses around or an officer from the customer care centre. If you have a valid permit, you won’t be at the wrong place at the wrong time.”
He advised Mathebula to return to the centre to sort out his permit issue.